Hinsdale, N.H. Black Friday Activists Forced To Leave Wal-Mart Premises
The Wal-Mart superstore in the tiny town of Hinsdale, New Hampshire was open to the public on Black Friday, but not to everyone in the public.
A group of roughly 15 activists and several children were ordered by Hinsdale Police to either leave the Wal-Mart parking lot, or face arrest. "The manager has told us they don't want you here," one policeman told the group. "This is private property." Police told the group they could stand along the highway as long as traffic was not disrupted.
Carrying signs reading "Liveable Wages 4 Wal-Mart workers," the group walked back along the long driveway to the entrance on Brattleboro Road, where they planted themselves for several hours, waving and holding signs to motorists who turned into and out of the store. The rally in support of the Wal-Mart workers inside the store began at 10 am, when the store's parking lot was roughly one-quarter full.
The Hinsdale Wal-Mart superstore # 1907 has been open less than a year. The superstore -- a conventional beige and cream-colored prototype with the Wal-Mart "spark" logo -- is located just over two miles from a "dead" Wal-Mart discount store at a site known as George's Field.
The "dark store" as Wal-Mart calls its cast-offs, was roughly 105,000 s.f., and was set back from the road on a rise. In 1998, the store had septic system problems, and at one point the Selectmen in the neighboring town of Brattleboro, Vermont, across an iron bridge over the Connecticut River, had refused to allow the Wal-Mart to hook up to its sewer system. When Wal-Mart representatives asked Brattleboro to allow a connection to the town's sewer line, one selectman told them: "We're losing a lot of money to you people on the other side (of the river). I want to protect the business community."
In July of 2007, Hinsdale officials learned that their "old" 105,000 s.f. Wal-Mart discount store most likely would be torn down. Wal-Mart proposed building instead a 198,000 s.f. superstore roughly two mile away from George's Field. The owner of the mall where the "old" discount stores now sits, told Hinsdale officials five years ago that she was close to signing a lease termination agreement with the company. She also said the building may have to be torn down and replaced with smaller buildings because no other owner could make full use of it.
"The most important thing is lease termination, so I can start marketing the property and get other tenants in there," the owner, Deborah George, told the Brattleboro Reformer in 2007. "I think, ultimately, that building is going to have to come down. I don't think there's anybody who could fully use the box without leaving half of it vacant." Today, the building sits empty, all the logos stripped off it, except a small Dunkin Donuts sign.
Wal-Mart got out of its lease with George 10 years early. The company also had three 10 year options to renew. George said the tentative agreement would allow her to lease the space to another company 60 days after Wal-Mart moves to its new location. She obviously has been unable to successfully do anything with the huge empty structure.
Next to the new Hinsdale superstore is a 68 acre parcel of land that could easily accomodate two more big box stores -- so George's Field is likely to remain empty -- a symbol of Wal-Mart's wasteful land use practices.
This Black Friday, the only Wal-Mart workers outside of the store were those in their bright yellow raincoats leashing up shopping carts in the parking lot. The store manager stood near the entrance to his store, letting the police handle the interaction with activists. Police from Hinsdale were aided by a squad car from Chesterfield, New Hampshire, which sped up and down the entranceway, while a faded Hinsdale SUV police car kept a close watch on the protestors to ensure that traffic was not disrupted.
What you can do: Readers are urged to call the Hinsdale Wal-Mart at (603) 336-5538, and to leave the following message for the Human Resources manager: "I stopped by your store on Black Friday to say that your employees deserve a liveable wage and decent health care -- but your manager wouldn't let me in the store to tell you that. Would you please pass the message along to your workers? People are watching how Wal-Mart responds to the call for better wages and benefits."